A Steadfast Heart

Reading: Isaiah 26:1-4

The following essay was written by Bruce S. Wright and published in The Children’s Six Minutes in 1922. The book is in the public domain and may be read freely on the internet.

KNIFE LESSONS

I have here a knife. It was given me by a friend, a token of his affection and esteem, when I went aboard the steamer in Manila, Philippine Islands, to return to the homeland. All these years since then the knife has been on my study desk, daily teaching me. What lessons does this knife teach?

First of all the knife tells me of Strength. The most important part of this knife is what I call the backbone. It is the main portion of the knife to which all the blades are fastened, as well as the polished pearl handle. This would be a weak and useless knife did it not have a backbone. It says to me every day “Be strong, stand up, have convictions, be steadfast.”

Lesson number two, Discipline. This knife has been subjected to many trials and tests. The steel of which these blades are made had to go through a hard, hot, trying process before they were tempered and fit to take an edge and hold it. Sometimes I rebel about certain processes of the days, then I think of my knife and learn from it the lesson of discipline….

The [last] lesson is Usefulness. Really it is quite wonderful the variety of uses to which this knife can be put. Here is a big blade, and a small blade; here is a blade with a file; folded in the back is a tiny pair of scissors. So the great test of life is its usefulness.

For Further Study:

  • Isaiah 26:1 talks about a strong city that God has prepared for His people. God has prepared a great city for His people in Heaven. You can read more about this city in Hebrews 11:13-16 (first it talks about a country, then a city) and Revelation 21.

 

  • Isaiah 26:3 talks about God keeping us in perfect peace because of our trust in Him. This is the same message found in Philippians 4:6-7. How can we find peace in God?

 

  • Think about the qualities discussed in the story of the knife today: spiritual strength, discipline, and usefulness. How are you doing in these areas? Where can you improve?
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Posted in Courage, Heaven, Holiness/purity, King/Judge, Pilgrims/pioneers/immigration, Savior, Work. Comments Off on A Steadfast Heart

Hard Work Pays Off

Reading: Proverbs 10:1-5

 

The book of Proverbs teaches us about wisdom and foolishness.  In these verses, we learn that being a hard worker is part of being wise.  God wants us to be diligent and honest workers upon the earth.

 

Have you ever heard the fable about the ants and the grasshopper?  The ants worked hard to gather grain for the winter.  The grasshopper played and played while the weather was warm, then suffered in the winter for his lack of planning.  He wished that others would share their grain with him.  He wanted a reward without the work.

 

God wants us to be willing to work.  Jesus and His disciples had very little time to rest.  They were always working.  You’ll remember that for most of His life, Jesus was a carpenter. 

 

God also wants us to trust in Him.  Work hard, but remember that God will take care of the righteous (Proverbs 10:3).  Don’t be worried about what you can gain.  This world is not your home!  Be thankful for your work, focus on serving God, and God will take care of your daily needs.

 

For Further Study:

  • What kind of work did Peter, Andrew, James, and John do before they were disciples (Matthew 4:18-22)?  What kind of work did Paul do (see Acts 18:1-3)?  Can you think of other jobs that people had in the Bible, such as Moses, Daniel, and Lydia?  Read these verses about the value of good, honest, hard work: Proverbs 12:11 and 13:11; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

 

  • What kind of work do you want to do when you’re older?  Think about yourself doing this work.  What would show that you were a good worker?  How could you bring glory to God while doing this work?

 

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Focus on Your Task

Reading: Nehemiah Chapter 6:1-16

Poor Nehemiah. Here he is, trying to rebuild the wall, and his enemies keep trying to distract him. First they send letters asking him to visit. Then they tell lies about him. Throughout these trials, Nehemiah doesn’t stop working on the wall. He prays often to God. He tries to let people know the truth. He doesn’t get discouraged. In the end, he finishes the wall, and his enemies are the ones who are discouraged. They can plainly see that God is with Nehemiah. Wouldn’t you like that to be said of you someday?

The following story was written by Howard J. Chidley and published in Fifty-Two Story Talks for Boys and Girls in 1914. The book is now out of print but can be read for free online.

THE STORM-KING EAGLE

If you have been up the Hudson River from New York to Albany by the day-boat, you will probably have noticed a high mountain on the right-hand side of the river by the name of Storm King.

I want to tell you about an eagle that used to live there. He could be seen there almost any day soaring high above the mountain-peak. And many a hunter had tried to shoot him. But he avoided them all. And how do you think he did it? Did he hide from them? No. Just by flying so high that the bullets could not reach him, or, if some chance bullet did reach him, he was so far away that it just kissed his plumage and fell back to earth without doing him any harm.

I wish that every boy and girl were as wise as that old eagle. That is always the way to avoid being wounded by sins: just keep high up above them. I mean by that, when you are tempted to do anything that is wrong, not to stop and argue with yourself whether you will get caught if you do it, or whether you will be happier if you do not do it, or any of these things by which you lose time. But just get right away from it: put it out of your mind.

I suppose you will wonder how you can do that. I will tell you. You have often heard about “wishing-caps,” and how the people in fairy-stories put them on and just wish themselves wherever they want to be, and quick as a flash they are there. Well, there is a wishing-cap that every boy and girl can put on when he is tempted; it is this prayer, “O God, help me not to do this thing which is wrong!” And if you say that prayer, and believe God will help you, it will take you high out of reach of the sin, just as that old eagle flew high above reach of the bullets. For God says that they who ask Him for help shall “mount up on wings as eagles.”

For Further Study:

  • When Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he was in prison in Rome. When the Philippians heard he was in jail, some of them became frightened and discouraged. Wouldn’t you be scared if your preacher, elder, or father were put in jail for talking about Christ? Would it make you scared to talk about Christ? Read what Paul wrote to encourage his brethren in Philippians 1:12-14, 27-28, and 2:14-18. What made Paul happy while he was in prison? What could the Philippians be busy doing, instead of being afraid?

  • Make a list of all the different kinds of work that you can do for the Lord. Now make a list of the possible distractions and fears that the devil could send your way in order to keep you from doing your work. Pray to God to help you learn how to handle these things. Think of how you could fight the devil if he ever sends these problems your way.
Posted in Courage, Holiness/purity, Hope, Patience, Work. Comments Off on Focus on Your Task

A Battle to Be Won

Reading: Deuteronomy 20:1-4

 

When you read all the stories about the Israelites’ problems, try to remember that there’s a reason God kept these stories in the Bible for us to learn.  The child of God has his own battles to fight against satan and the world.  And the God who was King of the Israelites, who went out in battle before them, and who gave them the victory over their enemies, is the same God who leads us today.

 

How does God want His people to act when they are about to go into battle?

·        Do not be afraid, even if your enemy seems so powerful. 

·        Remember how God has helped you in the past.

·        Listen to the wisdom of those who are older than you, who have studied God’s Word, and who can give you advice and comfort.

·        Remember that God doesn’t just fight with you; He goes before you, so that He can save you.  Though you will have to fight also, He will take the hardest “hits” for you – He will never put you in a battle that you cannot win.  It is up to you to have faith in Him and keep up the good fight!

 

 

The following story was written by Thornton W. Burgess and published in a collection of nature stores entitled Mother West Wind’s “When” Stories in 1917.  Burgess’s books can be read free online.

 

WHEN MR. BLUEBIRD WON HIS BEAUTIFUL COAT

 

Of all the joyous sounds of all the year there is none more loved by Peter Rabbit, and the rest of us for that matter, than the soft whistle of Winsome Bluebird in the spring. The first time Peter hears it he always jumps up in the air, kicks his long heels together, and does a funny little dance of pure joy, for he knows that Winsome Bluebird is the herald of sweet Mistress Spring, and that she is not far behind him. It is the end of the shivery, sad time and the beginning of the happy, glad time, and Peter rejoices when he hears that sweet, soft voice which is sometimes so hard to locate, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere.

 

So Peter loves Winsome Bluebird and never tires of seeing him about. You know he wears a very, very beautiful coat of blue, the blue of the sky when it is softest, and you love to lie on your back and look up into it and dream and dream. It always has seemed to Peter that Winsome’s coat is one of the loveliest he ever has seen, as indeed it is, and that it is quite right and proper and just as it should be that one having such a beautiful voice and bringing such a beautiful message should himself be beautiful. He said as much one day when he had run over to the Smiling Pool to pay his respects to Grandfather Frog.

 

“Chug – a – rum! Certainly. Of course,” replied Grandfather Frog. “Winsome Bluebird has a beautiful nature and his beautiful coat is the reward which Old Mother Nature has given him. It has been in the family ever since his grandfather a thousand times removed was brave enough to become the herald of Mistress Spring.”

 

“Oh, Grandfather Frog, that sounds like a story,” cried Peter. “Please, please tell it to me, for I love “Winsome Bluebird, and I know I shall love him more when I have learned more about him. His great-great-ever-so-great- grandfather must have done something very fine to have won such a lovely reward.”

 

“He did,” replied Grandfather Frog. ” He became the herald of Mistress Spring when no one else would, and bravely carried his message of gladness and joy where it was sadly needed, in spite of cold and hardship which no one else was willing to face.’

 

“Please, please tell me all about it,” begged Peter.

 

Grandfather Frog appeared to consider for a few minutes, and Peter waited anxiously. Then Grandfather Frog cleared his voice. “I will,” said he, “because you ought to know it. Everybody ought to know it, and Winsome Bluebird certainly never will tell it himself. He is too modest for that. It happened a great while ago when the world was young. Mr. Bluebird was one of the quietest and most modest of all the birds. He wore just a modest gray coat, and no one took any particular notice of him. In fact, he didn’t even have a name. He never quarreled with his neighbors. He never was envious of those to whom Old Mother Nature had given beautiful coats, or if he were, he never showed it. He just minded his own affairs and did his best to do his share of the work of the Great World, for even in the beginning of things there was something for each one to do.

 

“Old Mother Nature was very busy those days making the Great World a fit place in which to live, and as soon as she had started a new family of birds or animals she had to leave them to take care of themselves and get along as best they could. Those who were too lazy or too stupid to take care of themselves disappeared, and others took their places. There was nothing lazy or stupid about Mr. Bluebird, and he quickly learned how to take care of himself and at the same time to keep on the best of terms with his neighbors.

 

“When the place where the first birds lived became too crowded and old King Eagle led them out into the new land Old Mother Nature had been preparing for them, Mr. Bluebird was one of the first to follow him. The new land was very beautiful, and there was plenty of room and plenty to eat for all. Then came Jack Frost with snow and ice and drove all the birds back to the place they had come from. They made up their minds that they would stay there even if it were crowded. But after a while Old Mother Nature came to tell them that soon Jack Frost would be driven back from that wonderful new land, and sweet Mistress Spring would waken all the sleeping plants and all the sleeping insects up there so that it would be as beautiful as it was before, even more beautiful than the place where they were now.  She said that she should expect them to go to the new land and make it joyous with their songs and build their homes there and help her to keep the insects and worms from eating all the green things.

 

“But first I want a herald to go before Mistress Spring to tell those who have lived there all through the time of snow and ice that Mistress Spring is coming. Who will go as the herald of sweet Mistress Spring?” asked Old Mother Nature.

 

“All the birds looked at one another and shivered, and then one by one they tried to slip out of sight. Now Mr. Bluebird had modestly waited for some of his big, strong neighbors to offer to take the message of gladness up into that frozen land, but when he saw them slip away one by one, his heart grew hot with shame for them, and he flew out before Old Mother Nature. ‘ I’ll go,’ said he, bobbing his head respectfully.””Old Mother Nature just had to smile, because compared with some of his neighbors Mr. Bluebird was so very small. ‘ What can such a little fellow as you do? ‘ she asked. ‘ You will freeze to death up there, for it is still very cold.’

 

“If you please, I can at least try,’ replied Mr. Bluebird modestly. ‘ If I find I can’t go on, I can come back.’ “And what reward do you expect?” asked Old Mother Nature.

 

“The joy of spreading such good news as the coming of Mistress Spring will be is all the reward I want,” replied Mr. Bluebird.

 

“This reply so pleased Old Mother Nature that she then and there made Mr. Bluebird the herald of Mistress Spring and started him on his long journey. It was a long journey and a hard journey, harder, very much harder for Mr. Bluebird than the same journey is for Winsome these days. You see, everything was new to him. And then it was so cold! He couldn’t get used to the cold. It seemed sometimes as if he certainly would freeze to death.  At these times, when he sat shivering and shaking, he would remember that sweet Mistress Spring was not very far behind and that he was her herald. This would give him courage, and he would bravely keep on. Whenever he stopped to rest, he would whistle the news that Mistress Spring was coming, and sometimes, just to keep up his own courage, he would whistle while he was flying, and he found it helped. To keep warm at night tie crept into hollow trees, and it was thus he learned how snug and safe and comfortable such places were, and he made up his mind that in just such a place he would build his nest when the time came.

 

“As he passed on he left behind him great joy, and Mistress Spring found as she journeyed north that all in the forests and on the meadows were eagerly awaiting her, for they had heard the message of her coming; and she was glad and told Old Mother Nature how well her herald had done his work. When he had completed his errand, Mr. Bluebird built a home and was as modest and retiring as ever. He didn’t seem to think that he had done anything out of the usual. He simply rejoiced in his heart that he had been able to do what Old Mother Nature had requested, and it never entered his head that he should have any other reward than the knowledge that he had done his best and that he had brought cheer and hope to many.

 

When Jack Frost moved down from the far North in the fall, all the birds journeyed south again, and of course Mr. Bluebird went with them. The next season when it was time for Mistress Spring to start north, Old Mother Nature assembled all the birds, and this time, instead of asking who would carry the message, she called Mr. Bluebird out before them and asked if he were willing to be the herald once more. Mr. Bluebird said that he would be glad to be the herald if she wished it. Then Old Mother Nature told all the birds how brave Mr. Bluebird was and how faithful and true, and she made all the other birds feel ashamed, especially those bigger and stronger than Mr. Bluebird. Then she said: “Winsome Bluebird, for that is to be your name from now on, I here and now appoint you the herald of Mistress Spring, and the honor shall descend to your children and your children’s children forever and ever, and you shall be one of the most loved of all the birds. And because you are a herald, you shall have a bright coat, as all heralds should have; and because you are true and faithful, your coat shall be blue, as blue as the blue of the sky.’

 

“She reached out and touched Mr. Bluebird, and sure enough his sober gray coat turned the most wonderful blue. Then once more he started on his long journey and he whistled his message more joyously than before. And because his whistle brought joy and gladness, and because he was beautiful to see, it came about just as Old Mother Nature had said it would, that he was one of the most loved of all the birds, even as his great-great-ever-so-great- grandson is to-day. ‘

 

Peter drew a long breath. “Thank you, Grandfather Frog,” said he. “I have always loved Winsome Bluebird and now I shall love him more.”

 

 

For Further Study:

 

  • Even though a life with God has many blessings, it’s certainly not a life of ease.  God’s Word shows us that His people have battles to fight for Him.  Read Ephesians 6:12; 1 Timothy 6:12; and 2 Timothy 2:3.

 

 

  • Romans 7:21-25 talks about another battle that the child of God faces – the battle between what he knows is the right thing to do, and what his body wants to do.  Do you ever feel this way, like you know what’s right but the wrong seems so much easier?  When are some times when you face this battle?  How can you be ready for the next time you have to fight it?

 

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The value of hard work

Reading: Proverbs 24:30-34

Parents: “Why Peter Rabbit Cannot Fold His Hands” is from Mother West Wind’s “Why” Stories by Thornton Burgess, now out of print but found in used bookstores and free online.

Happy Jack Squirrel sat with his hands folded across his white waistcoat. He is very fond of sitting with his hands folded that way. A little way from him sat Peter Rabbit. Peter was sitting up very straight, but his hands dropped right down in front. Happy Jack noticed it.

“Why don’t you fold your hands the way I do, Peter Rabbit?” shouted Happy Jack.

“I–I–don’t want to,” stammered Peter.

“You mean you can’t!” jeered Happy Jack.

Peter pretended not to hear, and a few minutes later he hopped away towards the dear Old Briar-patch, lipperty-lipperty-lip. Happy Jack watched him go, and there was a puzzled look in Happy Jack’s eyes.
“I really believe he can’t fold his hands,” said Happy Jack to himself, but speaking aloud.

“He can’t, and none of his family can,” said a gruff voice.

Happy Jack turned to find Old Mr. Toad sitting in the Lone Little Path.  “Why not?” asked Happy Jack.

“Ask Grandfather Frog; he knows,” replied Old Mr. Toad, and started on about his business.

And this is how it happens that Grandfather Frog told this story to the little meadow and forest people gathered around him on the bank of the Smiling Pool.

“Chug-a-rum!” said Grandfather Frog. “Old Mr. Rabbit, the grandfather a thousand times removed of Peter Rabbit, was always getting into trouble. Yes, Sir, old Mr. Rabbit was always getting into trouble. Seemed like he wouldn’t be happy if he couldn’t get into trouble. It was all because he was so dreadfully curious about other people’s business, just as Peter Rabbit is now. It seemed that he was just born to be curious and so, of course, to get into trouble.

“One day word came to the Green Forest and to the Green Meadows that Old Mother Nature was coming to see how all the little meadow and forest people were getting along, to settle all the little troubles and fusses between them, and to find out who were and who were not obeying the orders she had given them when she had visited them last. My, my, my, such a hurrying and scurrying and worrying as there was! You see, everybody wanted to look his best when Old Mother Nature arrived, Yes, Sir, everybody wanted to look his best.

“There was the greatest changing of clothes you ever did see. Old King Bear put on his blackest coat. Mr. Coon and Mr. Mink and Mr. Otter sat up half the night brushing their suits and making them look as fine and handsome as they could. Even Old Mr. Toad put on a new suit under his old one, and planned to pull the old one off and throw it away as soon as Old Mother Nature should arrive. Then everybody began to fix up their homes and make them as neat and nice as they knew how–everybody but Mr. Rabbit.

“Now Mr. Rabbit was lazy. He didn’t like to work any more than Peter Rabbit does now. No, Sir, old Mr. Rabbit was afraid of work. The very sight of work scared old Mr. Rabbit. You see, he was so busy minding other people’s business that he didn’t have time to attend to his own. So his brown and gray coat always was rumpled and tumbled and dirty. His house was a tumble-down affair in which no one but Mr. Rabbit would ever have thought of living, and his garden–oh, dear me, such a garden you never did see! It was all weeds and brambles. They filled up the yard, and old Mr. Rabbit actually couldn’t have gotten into his own house if he hadn’t cut a path through the brambles.

“Now when old Mr. Rabbit heard that Old Mother Nature was coming, his heart sank way, way down, for he knew just how angry she would be when she saw his house, his garden and his shabby suit.

“‘Oh, dear! Oh, dear! What shall I do?’ wailed Mr. Rabbit, wringing his hands.

“‘Get busy and clean up,’ advised Mr. Woodchuck, hurrying about his own work.

“Now Mr. Woodchuck was a worker and very, very neat. He meant to have his home looking just as fine as he could make it. He brought up some clean yellow sand from deep down in the ground and sprinkled it smoothly over his doorstep.

“‘I’ll help you, if I get through my own work in time,’ shouted Mr. Woodchuck over his shoulder.

“That gave Mr. Rabbit an idea. He would ask all his neighbors to help him, and perhaps then he could get his house and garden in order by the time Old Mother Nature arrived. So Mr. Rabbit called on Mr. Skunk and Mr. Coon and Mr. Mink and Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Chipmunk, and all the rest of his neighbors, telling them of his trouble and asking them to help. Now, in spite of the trouble Mr. Rabbit was forever making for other people by his dreadful curiosity and meddling with other people’s affairs, all his neighbors had a warm place in their hearts for Mr. Rabbit, and they all promised that they would help him as soon as they had their own work finished.

“Instead of hurrying home and getting to work himself, Mr. Rabbit stopped a while after each call and sat with his arms folded, watching the one he was calling on work. Mr. Rabbit was very fond of sitting with folded arms. It was very comfortable. But this was no time to be doing it, and Mr. Skunk told him so.

“‘If you want the rest of us to help you, you’d better get things started yourself,’ said old Mr. Skunk, carefully combing out his big, plumy tail.
“‘That’s right, Mr. Skunk! That’s right!’ said Mr. Rabbit, starting along briskly, just as if he was going to hurry right home and begin work that very instant.

“But half an hour later, when Mr. Skunk happened to pass the home of Mr. Chipmunk, there sat Mr. Rabbit with his arms folded, watching Mr. Chipmunk hurrying about as only Mr. Chipmunk can.

“Finally Mr. Rabbit had made the round of all his friends and neighbors, and he once more reached his tumble-down house. ‘Oh, dear,’ sighed Mr. Rabbit, as he looked at the tangle of brambles which almost hid the little old house, ‘I never, never can clear away all this! It will be a lot easier to work when all my friends are here to help,’ So he sighed once more and folded his arms, instead of beginning work as he should have done. And then, because the sun was bright and warm, and he was very, very comfortable, old Mr. Rabbit began to nod, and presently he was fast asleep.

“Now Old Mother Nature likes to take people by surprise, and it happened that she chose this very day to make her promised visit. She was greatly pleased with all she saw as she went along, until she came to the home of Mr. Rabbit.

“‘Mercy me!’ exclaimed Old Mother Nature, throwing up her hands as she saw the tumble-down house almost hidden by the brambles and weeds. ‘Can it be possible that any one really lives here?’

Then, peering through the tangle of brambles, she spied old Mr. Rabbit sitting on his broken-down doorstep with his arms folded and fast asleep.
“At first she was very indignant, oh, very indignant, indeed! She decided that Mr. Rabbit should be punished very severely. But as she watched him sitting there, dreaming in the warm sunshine, her anger began to melt away. The fact is, Old Mother Nature was like all the rest of Mr. Rabbit’s neighbors–she just couldn’t help loving happy-go-lucky Mr. Rabbit in spite of all his faults. With a long stick she reached in and tickled the end of his nose.

“Mr. Rabbit sneezed, and this made him wake up. He yawned and blinked, and then his eyes suddenly flew wide open with fright. He had discovered Old Mother Nature frowning at him. She pointed a long forefinger at him and said:

‘In every single blessed day
There’s time for work and time for play.
Who folds his arms with work undone
Doth cheat himself and spoil his fun.’

“‘Hereafter, Mr. Rabbit, you and your children and your children’s children will never again be able to sit with folded arms until you or they have learned to work.’

“And that is why Peter Rabbit cannot fold his arms and still lives in a tumble-down house among the brambles,” concluded Grandfather Frog.

For Further Study:

  • Do you know anybody in the Bible who didn’t have work to do? From the time of Adam, God has meant for men to work. What kind of work did Adam do (Genesis 2:15)? What work did God give Eve to do (Genesis 2:18)? What kind of work did Abraham, Joseph, David, and Jesus do? Even kings and princes have responsibilities and duties. Can you think of them?
  • Write down the top three jobs that you would like to have someday. How do these jobs help you be wise? How can you spread the gospel at each of these workplaces? For example, let’s imagine that you want to be a chef when you grow up. Could you talk to your co-workers about Jesus, whom the gospel calls the “Bread of Life”? Could you talk to them about the “food” that God has given your souls?
Posted in Beasts & Birds, Talents, Work. Comments Off on The value of hard work